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Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice (Food, Health, and the Environment)

Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice (Food, Health, and the Environment)

Current price: $20.00
Publication Date: July 29th, 2011
The MIT Press
Special Order - Subject to Availability


An examination of political conflicts over pesticide drift and the differing conceptions of justice held by industry, regulators, and activists.

The widespread but virtually invisible problem of pesticide drift—the airborne movement of agricultural pesticides into residential areas—has fueled grassroots activism from Maine to Hawaii. Pesticide drift accidents have terrified and sickened many living in the country's most marginalized and vulnerable communities. In this book, Jill Lindsey Harrison considers political conflicts over pesticide drift in California, using them to illuminate the broader problem and its potential solutions.

The fact that pesticide pollution and illnesses associated with it disproportionately affect the poor and the powerless raises questions of environmental justice (and political injustice). Despite California's impressive record of environmental protection, massive pesticide regulatory apparatus, and booming organic farming industry, pesticide-related accidents and illnesses continue unabated. To unpack this conundrum, Harrison examines the conceptions of justice that increasingly shape environmental politics and finds that California's agricultural industry, regulators, and pesticide drift activists hold different, and conflicting, notions of what justice looks like.

Drawing on her own extensive ethnographic research as well as in-depth interviews with regulators, activists, scientists, and public health practitioners, Harrison examines the ways industry, regulatory agencies, and different kinds of activists address pesticide drift, connecting their efforts to communitarian and libertarian conceptions of justice. The approach taken by pesticide drift activists, she finds, not only critiques theories of justice undergirding mainstream sustainable-agriculture activism, but also offers an entirely new notion of what justice means. To solve seemingly intractable environmental problems such as pesticide drift, Harrison argues, we need a different kind of environmental justice. She proposes the precautionary principle as a framework for effectively and justly addressing environmental inequities in the everyday work of environmental regulatory institutions.

About the Author

Jill Lindsey Harrison is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Praise for Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice (Food, Health, and the Environment)

…This is an important and timely addition to the conversation surrounding U.S. agriculture. It is a welcome antidote to the antipolitics of the food reform movement.—Madeleine Fairbairn, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rural Sociology

Harrison does an excellent job of explaining why pesticide regulation and activism has failed to curb pesticide drift...[T]he book provides an important contribution to sociological thinking about environmental justice, helping readers to better expose the assumptions that underlie unjust systems.

Alison Hope Alkon, American Journal of Sociology